Rain plays spoilsport at biennale opening

CM Oommen Chandy inaugurated the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale by lighting a lamp, as all stood under shared umbrellas. Photo: Sreekumar E.V

Fort Kochi: It seemed like the rain gods wanted to set up a show. However, the unseasonal rains which poured down could not dampen the spirit of the hundreds of art lovers gathered at Parade Ground, Fort Kochi, on Friday night to witness the art extravaganza they had been waiting for two years to get off to a flying start.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale by lighting a lamp here as the audience stood under shared umbrellas, most of them drenched.

Opening the 108-day long festival of contemporary art from all over the world, Chandy said,“Kerala is fast emerging as a gateway for art lovers across the world with this year’s Biennale.”

Showering praises on the organisers, the Chief Minister said, “India’s first and only Biennale had captivated the minds of art lovers.” He said that despite the financial crisis the state is facing, the government will offer all possible support to the programme. He said the state government has already allotted Rs 2 crore for the function, adding that, the request for more fund will be considered.

Ahead of the inauguration, a team of 300 artists lined up under the leadership of Chenda maestro Padma Shri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar to perform a Paandi Melam that lasted for two hours and mesmerized the audience.

The inaugural function was attended by masters in the field of art and culture from various parts of the globe. Ministers K. C. Joseph, K. Babu, A. P. Anil Kumar and Anoop Jacob, K. V. Thomas MP, former Minister M. A. Baby, MLAs Dominic Presentation and Hibi Eden and Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany attended the meet in the presence of Kochi Biennale Foundation president Bose Krishnamachari, secretary Riyas Komu and curator Jitesh Kallat.

The second edition of the Biennale features 94 artists from 33 countries. At 12.12 noon on Friday, Jitish Kallat hoisted the flag. Apart from the display of installations and art works, the Foundation will be organizing several art-related events as part of the show that will be on till March 29.

2-hr Pandi Melam triggers frenzy at KMB’14 opening ceremony

Artists perform during the inauguration of the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kochi on Dec 12, 2014. Photo: IANS

It was indeed a welcome note. For those from overseas, it was an opportunity savour the one-and-half millennium-old ensemble of South India while the natives got a chance to enjoy it in its absoluteness as over 300 performers lined up for a 'Pandi Melam' ahead of the inauguration of Kochi-Muziris Biennale here on Friday.

The second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) became venue to one of the world’s biggest orchestral performance when the inaugural ceremony of the international art event hosted a traditional Kerala ensemble featuring as many as 305 artistes.

Exponents of ethnic drums, cymbals, pipes and horns made more than half-a-dozen long rows to present the ancient ‘Pandi Melam’ that lasted for two hours under the leadership of chenda maestro Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, ahead of state chief minister Oommen Chandy formally declaring the 108-day extravaganza open.

The crowd at the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi went into frenzy this evening as the ensemble, believed to have originated more than 1,500 years ago, virtually exploded in fast-paced rhythmic cycles of 7 beats. Typically starting with a slow-paced first chapter (onnaam kaalam), the recital on a raised stage saw 21 chenda players in one row ahead of 101 bass drums (valamthala) and cymbals (ilathalam) each, besides 41 pipes (kurumkuzhal) and as many horns (kombu).

Kuttan Marar, a Padma awardee, said it is only at central Kerala’s famed annual Thrissur Pooram that he has by far led an orchestra of nearly this size. “Even at the Ilanjithara Melam, the total number of participants doesn’t generally cross 300,” the 61-year-old drummer gushed, hailing KMB’14 for giving chenda melam a platform ahead of a major contemporary art festival.

The Pandi recital was typically preceded by an introductory chembada melam which lasted 20 minutes.

As many as 305 artists performed together during the inauguration of the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale which is being said to be the world's biggest orchestral performance. Photo: Sreekumar E.V

Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), which is organising KMB’14, reiterated its keenness to include the country’s traditional arts in the festival ending on March 29, 2015.

“The idea is to reflect our composite culture,” said renowned artist Riyas Komu, who is the secretary of the 2010-founded KBF which is a non-profit organisation engaged also in the uplift of traditional forms of art besides conservation of heritage properties and monuments.